A diagnosis of toxic encephalopathy can be particularly distressing for patients, as the disorder is known to cause a wide range of serious symptoms that can be treated but usually not cured. The symptoms of toxic encephalopathy can be debilitating and often totally disabling, making it difficult, if not impossible, for patients to hold a job and maintain their normal way of life. After diagnosis, toxic encephalopathy patients are often left wondering how they'll cope with this challenging disorder and how they'll make ends meet. Obtaining Social Security (SS) Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) can provide patients with monthly payments that can give them much-needed peace of mind and financial support.  

What Is Toxic Encephalopathy?

While "encephalopathy" is a catch-all term for malfunctions of the brain, "toxic encephalopathy" is a term that's used to describe a degenerative neurologic disorder that develops as a result of exposure to toxic substances such as lead, industrial solvents, pesticides, radiation, building materials, and certain metals. Even commonly used chemical products such as cleaning solutions, perfumes, and air fresheners can damage the central nervous system of some individuals, resulting in toxic encephalopathy.

This exposure to toxic substances can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Visual problems
  • Altered mental status
  • Memory loss
  • Personality changes, including increased irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Substance-induced persistent dementia
  • Severe headaches
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Weakness in the extremities
  • Involuntary movements
  • Depression


Toxic encephalopathy can cause permanent brain damage and is considered irreversible in many cases. However, while most cases of toxic encephalopathy cannot be reversed or cured, many patients find some relief by having their individual symptoms treated. Treatments can include: 

  • Changes to diet and exercise routines
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Anticonvulsant drugs (for patients experiencing seizures)
  • Dialysis (for patients whose kidneys are affected)
  • Organ transplant surgeries (for patients whose toxic encephalopathy has caused organ failure)
  • Counseling or antidepressants (for patients suffering from depression—both from the disorder itself, as well as those whose depression is linked to living with a serious illness)

Applying for SS Benefits for Toxic Encephalopathy

While toxic encephalopathy is not listed in the SSA's “Blue Book” Listing of Impairments, patients with the disorder may still qualify to receive SS benefits if they can demonstrate that the condition has a negative impact on their ability to work and earn substantial gainful employment (SGA). To prove that your disability prevents you from working, careful medical documentation is key, and working closely with your doctor is essential.

If your doctor suggests that your toxic encephalopathy may warrant SS benefits, ask him to complete a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form on your behalf. This form, along with your medical records, provides the SSA with a comprehensive view of your health condition, your diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment, as well as how the symptoms of the disorder affect your ability to work. Your doctor will provide his opinion of your ability to perform work-related physical tasks such as standing, sitting, and lifting, as well as mental and emotional tasks such as concentrating, following directions, and getting along with co-workers.

Do You Need Help Applying for SS Benefits?

If you were recently diagnosed with toxic encephalopathy, obtaining SS benefits from the SSA can help. However, before you can be approved, you'll have to go through a complex and lengthy application process. Don't let the paperwork discourage you from applying for the benefits you need and deserve. Contact the experienced disability attorneys with Keefe Disability Law for a no-cost evaluation of your case, or request a free copy of our book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Question About Social Security Disability. Our skilled attorneys are eager to answer your questions and help you begin the application process.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer